For Chinese New Year this year I decided to try making bak kwa, also known as Chinese BBQ pork jerky. A good friend of mine who lives in Australia had made it before and talked about how easy it was. Bak kwa is one of the more expensive CNY treats and popular bak kwa stalls have long lines during the CNY period. People are known to queue for hours to buy bak kwa. In Singapore, bak kwa vendors also sell beef, fish and bacon bak kwa. Pork, however is still my favorite.
Unfortunately, I have no idea where you can buy bak kwa here in the US though I suspect you might be able to buy it in Chinatown. Many people here haven’t heard about bak kwa though.
Making the bak kwa is quite simple. You start with some coarsely ground pork. If you can’t get coarse ground pork, the normal fine mince will do. Mix in the seasonings, leave it in the fridge overnight to let the flavors set in, dry out in the oven the next day, and grill or broil in the oven.
The seasonings can be adjusted according to the type of flavor you are going for. I like my bak kwa more sweet than salty and thus preferred this recipe to others I found online. I like how you can control the amount of sugar and other seasonings when you make your own bak kwa. You also know what is in it and can choose not to add the red food coloring.
Homemade Bak Kwa (Chinese BBQ Pork Jerky)
(recipe taken and adapted from here)
- 1 pound (or 500g) coarsely ground pork
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 8 tablespoons sugar, or more if you want it sweeter
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon shao xing wine
- 1 tablespoon kecap manis
- 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- a few drops of red liquid food colouring (optional)
- Combine all ingredients together in a bowl, cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. If you don’t have time, let sit for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 240°F.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and spread the meat mixture onto the baking sheet. Try and spread it as evenly and thinly as possible (about 3-4mm thick).
- Bake in oven for 20 minutes to dry the pork.
- Increase temperature to 340ºF and bake for another 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and flip bak kwa onto a cooling rack. You might need a paper towel to help you remove excess liquid. Place back in oven and bake for another 15 minutes, or until surface is dry to touch.
- Cut bak kwa into desired shape and size and grill on charcoal stove/bbq or broil in oven (I do it in a toaster oven) till edges are charred.